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Winter is Coming

With the last of the summer sunshine firmly behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to the colder months ahead. Alan Collins, technical training manager at Instarmac, discusses some of the important things to keep in mind while tiling in the winter.

There are many enjoyable things about winter – Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year to name a few, but working in the cold weather is another matter entirely. During the winter months, we are often asked if it is OK to work in freezing temperatures so we thought we would answer out most commonly asked questions.

Should we work in cold temperatures?
Theoretically, the answer would be no. However, we know that isn’t practical or possible and work still needs to be carried out in the winter months. Closing your business for a few months of the year isn’t feasible, money needs to be earned and jobs completed. With that in mind, there are a number of things we can do to make working in winter much easier.

When does “no” mean “no”?
No means no when the temperature will not be 5°C above the dew point throughout application and curing. This is to ensure there is no moisture present at the subfloor surface which will hinder adhesion. Dew point is linked to atmospheric humidity and temperature.

What can go wrong when working in cold temperatures?
As you know, most adhesives are cement-based and cement cures through hydration. Cold temperatures will affect the moisture content in a cement-based product, and so, if we work in cold conditions, you might find that the cement does not set or could even freeze.

It’s also worth noting that curing is an exothermic process which needs heat to start the chemical reaction. If the air temperature is too low, there will not be enough heat generated to cure the product, which will prolong the set – not ideal!

That being said, there are things we can do to make working in cold temperatures more manageable. Which brings us nicely on to the next question.

If you do have to work in cold temperatures, what can help?
Our first tip would be to store all your products inside, ideally in a heated environment. Please do not store products in your van or outside. This will dramatically reduce the temperature of the product making your job so much harder before you even begin.

The same goes for storing tiles. Tiles can be cold at the best of times so storing them outside is a real no go during the colder months. Storing your tiles inside will make a huge difference to your installation.

Air temperature is also a big one! Where possible, raise the air temperature within the room to give you a more ambient working environment. We recommend using a heater rather than a gas burner to prevent condensation.

In the same way we recommend using cold water for mixing in the summer months, during the winter we advise using water that is above 20°C for mixing. This will minimise the risk of prolonged set and/or the product failing to set at all.

If you are working on a substrate that has underfloor heating within it, you can turn the system on to 15°C to help raise the temperature. Remember, you need to maintain this temperature for 7 days.

These are our top tips for working in the colder months. We would love to hear what your tips are for working in the winter. Join the conversation by following #UltraTileTips.

I hope you found this article helpful. If you need any support with your tile installation, you can call 01827 254402 or connect and send me a message on LinkedIn.

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